Posts filed under 'American Idol'

Gay or not?: Chris Colfer does the hokey pokey in and out of the closet

Chris ColferYesterday, Glee co-star Chris Colfer gave an interview to USA Today wherein he half-heartedly took a step back into the closet. All at once, Colfer’s comments were confusing, inconsistent and, to me, maddening.

Let me backtrack.

For those unfamiliar, on Glee Colfer plays the designer label-wearing, “Single Ladies”-choreographing, gayer-than-Christmas character Kurt. Kurt is one of the funniest characters on the show — lovingly and sensitively written — and Colfer does a great job playing him. He’s totally flamboyant, but the character doesn’t come across as minstrel-y. All in all, Kurt is a great role model for flamboyant young kids.

So, being that Kurt is the gayest character on the gayest show on network television, one would be tempted to make assumptions about whether the actor playing the role is gay himself. Colfer has been asked about it before and publications like After Elton and The Advocate have matter-of-factly discussed him as being out. He’s said a couple times that he wasn’t out in high school because people are “killed” for it in his hometown.

So, it seemed bizarre and inconsistent that in the USA Today interview he decided to play coy. From the article:

Playing an openly gay kid means fielding questions about his own sexuality, which Colfer doesn’t address.

“I try to keep up a mystery. As much as I give away of my personal life, the less people will believe me as other characters. I try to be private about it. It is what it is,” Colfer says with a shrug.

This drives me nuts.

I don’t want to be too hard on Colfer. Even today, coming out is always hard and you have to remember that he’s basically just a kid (born in 1990, for the love of God). And I certainly can’t imagine coming out to the entire country when I was 19.

Still, this is the latest in a troubling pattern of behavior by gay celebrities. Whether you’re Michelle Rodriguez or Ricky Martin or Sean Hayes or Anderson Cooper, dodging the gay question has been a time-honored tradition. However, the idea of not only dodging the gay question, but actively aspiring to achieve a sort of glass closet mystique strikes me as willfully and actively dishonest.

The most recent high-profile case of this phenomenon was American Idol’s Adam Lambert, who danced around the gay question for ages despite the fact that he was pretty much openly gay before the show. There were photos of him, essentially, shitting glitter and neon glowsticks. No one was fooled, but it kept people talking. And then he had his big Rolling Stone article and the beaten dead horse of Lambert’s sexuality was finally buried.

Now, Colfer’s decision to intentionally obfuscate (and self-contradict) his sexual orientation is both disappointing and aggravating. It’s aggravating because it reinforces the idea that being gay is something that should be hidden. “It’s none of your business” is something you say when you’re caught cheating on your wife or if you’re trying to cover up a blemish with the law. “Yeah, I’m gay. What’s so interesting about that?” is the attitude that Lambert and Colfer should be expressing. No one would ever play coy about their national origin or religion (unless, maybe, you’re a creepy Scientologist).

As for his concern about getting roles — I can understand why actors in particular would be hesitant to discuss their homosexuality. Getting roles is a cut-throat business and casting directors are fickle. But, let’s face it, actors like Chris Colfer and Sean Hayes are never going to be the leads in heterosexual romantic comedies (Other actors like, say, T.R. Knight might be able to get away with it. It’s just a fact). No one is ever going to say “Well, we can’t get Gyllenhaal, somebody get Chris Colfer’s people on the phone.”

It may not feel good to be limited to certain roles and put in a specific box, but that’s all Hollywood is — boxes.  Actors are typecast all the time based on their race, their age or their level of attractiveness. Steve Buscemi might want to get the same roles as George Clooney, but it’s never going to happen. (It’s not the end of the world, though. The rules are definitely bendable. Neil Patrick Harris’ role as Barney on How I Met Your Mother works so well because he isn’t traditionally masculine.) Colfer happens to be baby-faced, wirey and fey. Confirming or denying his sexual orientation isn’t going to change a thing.

I’m not advocating a witch hunt to “out” anyone in Hollywood (politicians, however, are a different story). Beating down an actor’s door to force them out of the closet doesn’t do anything but imply that they’ve been “exposed” as being gay. But as long as there people in Maine voting to strip away the rights of committed couples and a complete ban on gay people in the military, it’s important to for everyone to be out and unashamed.

This coy business isn’t cute. It’s counterproductive.

16 comments November 12th, 2009

Why So You Think You Can Dance > American Idol

It's like the whole Fame high school tried out!

I used to watch American Idol, but not So You Think You Can Dance. I thought SYTYCD was one of those filler shows used as an alternative to dead air during the summer. Now, I feel myself going the other way: I look forward to So You Think You Can Dance, and fast-forward my way through the majority of Idol.  So You Think You Can Dance is clearly the better show, and here’s why:

The dancers originate the numbers. When Idol is at its very, very best, a contestant takes a song that I don’t like very much, re-imagines it, and actually improves upon it. I estimate this happens 1% of the time or less. More often, they’re trying their best to do justice to a song while not being as great as the original (if they’re any good at all). On So You Think You Can Dance, the performers are the original. They’re not a pale imitation of another artist, and it makes a big difference. I don’t know much about the world of dance, but I’ve heard that the choreographers they use on the show are actually respected in the industry. The best songwriters working today obviously don’t spend their time writing new songs for the contestants on Idol to sing each week. They don’t even spend their time writing one new song for the finale—that’s why KaraDioGuardi had to do it. (Zing!)

Paula Abdul is not on it. It pains me to be so mean. Like every child of the ’80s, I have affection for “Cold-Hearted Snake” and “Opposites Attract,” and I wish Paula no ill will. But the woman cannot judge. Mostly, she just restates what the other judges have said, but in more words. Kara took a lot of flak this year, but at least she can put together a cogent thought. I usually disagree with that thought—why would she think that anyone wants to hear that One Republic song again?—but she can actually articulate an idea. Actually, to be fair to Paula, since Randy never says much of value either, I’d say that the judging on So You Think You Can Dance is better all around. Even the crazy judge—Mary Murphy—knows a lot about ballroom and seems to scream like a wild woman or not scream like a wild woman based on actual merit.

Good dancing is good dancing. Good singing can still make bad music. This may be where my ignorance of dance is So You Think You Can Dance’s gain, but, to me, the talent is just better on that show. I could be wrong, but they look like well-rounded, all-around great dancers. Idol, on the other hand,  seems to specialize in seeking out singers who are only good at singing on American Idol. That is, they’re technically proficient but in a regimented, Top-40-pop kind of way. My favorite musical artists don’t sing this way, and I’m guessing that unless you love Jason Mraz that your favorite band doesn’t sound like Kris Allen, either.

It’s just more fun to watch. When they do group numbers on So You Think You Can Dance, it’s not to sell gas-guzzling American cars. They’re legitimately interesting large-scale dances. They also dance as partners, then split up the partnerships, so there are little mini-dramas stuck in-between the larger drama of the competition. But even without all the peripherals, watching people dance on TV is just inherently more interesting than watching them sing. Don’t believe me? Check out this “Bollywood” routine from last season (the real dance starts 1:11 in):

Photo Credit Glenn Watson/FOX ©2009 Fox Broadcasting Co.

3 comments May 27th, 2009

Ryan Seacrest: In five years we’ll all be working for him… or dead by his hand

The Washington Post came out with a rather horrifying profile of Ryan Seacrest yesterday, portraying him as the determined and energetic heir to the Dick Clark dynasty — a fact that he admits to in no minced words (“I had a total, 100 percent strategy to be the Dick Clark for our generation,” he says, “to be the Merv Griffin for our generation, to be the Larry King for our generation.”).


Meanwhile, who wants to be the Larry King of any generation?

Normally, when people get on TV it’s because they are really committed to a craft. Even if you think they suck. For instance, you couldn’t pay me enough to listen to a Carrie Underwood album, but you know that she got there because she was once a barefoot eight-year-old singing into a hairbrush in front of her bathroom mirror. But she got good at something and parlayed that into a (hugely) successful career — and now millions of people love her.

But the way Shales breaks it down, Seacrest was making mix tapes in the hopes of becoming Casey Kasem. And not only did he want to be Casey Kasem, he wanted to be every talent monger. Here’s the scariest paragraph of them all:

Although “Seacrest” might sound like a waterfront retirement village, there’s nothing remotely sleepy about him. It’s not that he’s multi-talented; he’s anti-talented, not a performer but a professional “personality,” the latest variation on a type as old as broadcasting: the guy who stands there and introduces the acts. He’s a low-key cheerleader who keeps the show moving and, with the judges as natural foils, allies himself with the audience and the contestants, never threatening to upstage the performers, even if he could.

The article details the psychotic organization, bordering on megalomania, with which Seacrest has built his empire (and, yes, it is a fucking empire). The radio kingdom, American Idol, the New Year’s Eve gig, being on E! 25 hours a day, etc.

I think the article wouldn’t be so disturbing if Seacrest were trying to become a real estate mogul. If he was just out to be the richest, most powerful, Trumpiest Trump that ever Trumped, then who would really care? But the fact is that he wants to hijack pop culture. And his vehicle toward success is mediocrity, accessibility and, above all, familiarity.

My gripe is that every place that Seacrest pops up is somewhere someone interesting won’t pop up. No more Kathy Griffin on the red carpet because Seacrest is there to blandly schmooze it up.  They could recruit a journalist to host E!, but sadly no. Seacrest’s malleable, vanilla “hostiness” can fill a thousand different roles and he’s taking up more than his fair share.  After all was anybody actually excited when they found out he was going to host the Emmys?

The fact of the matter is that Ryan Seacrest is not going away. Like a chicken pox scar or a traumatizing memory from 7th grade gym class, he’s just something we’re going to have to live with the rest of our lives.

7 comments March 25th, 2008

The More You Know: Sara’s right edition

March 7th, 2008

The More You Know: Special announcement edition

Stay tuned to TiFaux later in the day for a special announcement.  Yes, I’m a bastard.

3 comments February 8th, 2008

Stop me. Before I watch again.

You guys, I’m thinking about watching the next season of American Idol. I know, I know… this is a giant step back.

This is what I got when I Google Imaged “shame.”
I’m just afraid of the chasm that will be left/has been left in our programming thanks to the strike. I don’t want to entertain you with stardust memories of the time when 30 Rock wasn’t in reruns.

It reminds me of that scene in High Fidelity when Dick is preciously spinning a Belle and Sebastian CD in the record store. And Rob thinks it’s trite and stupid, but he’s also fine with it because he “just wants something he can ignore.”

I kind of feel like that — at least I’ll have some voice in the pop culture dialogue. Rather than just reliving stardust memories of how awesome it was when Kelly told Ryan she was pregnant on The Office (and then they cut away to her shaking her head impishly). So, at least I’ll have some sort of escapist life.

I know AI is going to be awful. Even though I hear the contestants can use instruments this year, I have no hope for the future. There was that show trying to find the great American band last year, and it ended up being a collection of backyard jug players without a sense of kitsch.


January 9th, 2008

The More You Know: Giant Kitty edition

“Big, big, big cat!” — Shonen Knife

January 7th, 2008

The More You Know: Haircut edition

I need a Christmas haircut — my hair is just this amorphous pile on my head.

1 comment December 21st, 2007

The More You Know: Illness edition

I don’t know how I’ve managed to not get sick so far.

December 19th, 2007

The More You Know: Oldest person at the show edition

I refuse to believe I’m too old for rock concerts.

2 comments December 12th, 2007

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